A few years ago, when I still hoped the Orthodox church would not become a full part of our lives, when I looked on this faith as a distant second cousin, one I was fond of and respected but didn’t necessarily invite for Sunday dinners, my husband met a Bishop who was attending Divine Liturgy.
“I hope to become Orthodox, one day” my husband said. He graciously didn’t add “but there’s this little problem with my wife…..”
The Bishop looked at him, clasped his hands, and said “I want to say ‘Yavash, Yavash’ Slowly, Slowly. We’re not going anywhere”.
This phrase is actually Turkish (“yavaş yavaş”) and while it means “Slowly, Slowly”, it seems to mean more than this. It means “to do something quietly,thoughtfully,without attention from others”.
One thing about this Orthodox journey – no one is in a hurry for us to jump in like we would a swimming pool on a hot day. No one minds that we are going about this more carefully than we’ve done anything in our lives. No one minds that we question, and read, and question some more. In fact – the Bishop’s words to my husband are the way this journey is encouraged.
Orthodox faith is like a slow hike up a tall mountain. You periodically have to stop and rest, take a long drink,and then move on. You are encouraged to do so by those who have gone before. It used to be that those interested in the Orthodox church were given years of intense instruction before being encouraged to be baptized. During this period the one new to the church is called a catechumen — “one receiving instruction in the basic doctrines of Orthodoxy before admission to communicant membership in the Church”. The understanding was that the Church held mysteries that were not immediately available to the one who was ‘seeking’, that it was a slow belief process, not an easy ‘beliefism’. The Church wanted the catechumen to understand that the call of this faith was serious, the demands were huge, the walk of the faithful a steady discipline.
This is far from the practice of many modern-day protestant churches and I find myself occasionally uncomfortable in the Orthodox church, as one who ‘doesn’t belong’. I’ve begun to understand what it was like for my friends who did not believe but occasionally came to churches because something, someone drew them there, to understand why they sometimes thought we spoke ‘Martian’. In a way it’s like the words of the Beaver to Lucy about Aslan: it doesn’t feel safe, but it feels good, it feels right.
For entering Orthodoxy has been like entering a new country, one that I am completely unfamiliar with. I don’t know the language, the practice, or the ‘rules’. A country where I don’t have a passport or visa stamp, just an interest and a strong sense that I am walking in obedience. I sit on the outside looking in to something that I alternately long for and push away.
I am in this process slowly by slowly, yavaş yavaş, attentive to what I don’t know, what I don’t understand. I am humbled by this journey, I feel like a child who “thinks she’s mastered the art of bow tying only to realize that one loop doesn’t make a bow.”*
I am the Reluctant Orthodox and I walk this journey slowly by slowly, sometimes frustrated, sometimes delighted, but always learning.
- Reluctant Orthodox Series
- Orthodox Church in Turkey wishes Muslims a happy Eid (worldbulletin.net)
- Orthodox Bishops Release Statement on Sexuality; Marriage (usa.greekreporter.com)
- Through the Prayers of the Theotokos (frted.wordpress.com)